BENGALURU: Staff at the helpline set up by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bengaluru have provided psychosocial support to over four lakh people since it was set up in March last year.
The issues that callers from across the country have brought up since the pandemic hit India are an indicator of its trajectory and the toll it has taken on people’s mental well-being.
“We saw different psychosocial issues in people, depending on their age. During the lockdown we saw people with anxiety who called about how to keep their parents safe and over-thinking. During phase 3 of the lockdown, people were stuck and wanted to travel, some were depressed about losing their jobs. The next phase was parents being worried about children not studying.
Now, with unlock, we see people worrying about how they will be safe while they are socialising. The helpline has helped many people in all phases,” said Dr K Sekar, registrar and head of the Centre for Disaster Management (CDM) at NIMHANS. People who needed more than one conversation to deal with their problems were directed to senior professionals who spoke to them as long as needed.
“Earlier we used to get 10,000 calls per day. Now, it has come down to 250. We will continue taking calls and supporting people,” Dr Sekar said. Considering the positive response and the number of people the helpline has managed to assist, the institute is planning on setting up an exclusive HIV/AIDS support number. “We have received queries about a service for HIV patients.
We are worried about their health as they are considered a high-risk group (due to Covid). Many of them have anxiety and so we are thinking of providing them support and are working on it,” Dr Sekar said. NIMHANS was the first institute in India to set up a helpline for psychosocial support and mental health services for disaster survivors. It also provide tertiary support for people during emergencies causes by disasters.
JUST A CALL AWAY
Toll-free 24x7 pan-India helpline (080-46110007)
600 professionals handle calls in 19 states and nine languages
Includes 90 at NIMHANS, and nine from the CDM who follow up with callers
Lokopriya Gopinath Bordoloi Regional Institute of Mental Health (Assam), Central Institute of Psychiatry (Ranchi), other institutes also roped in